Welcome to Late to the Party, a series in which I discuss video games that I’ve finally gotten around to playing. Today I’m going to talk about Injustice 2, a 2D fighting game with characters from DC Comics. I played Injustice 2 on both a standard PlayStation 4 and a PlayStation 4 Pro and today’s review will be free of any spoilers from the game’s story campaign.
Back in 2013 developer NetherRealm Studios gave us Injustice: Gods Among Us. This actually wasn’t the first time that the team behind the Mortal Kombat series had delivered a fighting game with characters from DC Comics—see 2008’s “Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe”—but it was the first time that it had been done to such a high level of quality. I loved the first Injustice game and when its sequel was announced it immediately got added to my list of games to eventually play. When Injustice 2 was released in 2017 I held off from purchasing it because I knew it would inevitably be getting several rounds of DLC but not long ago the Legendary Edition of the game that included all the DLC went on sale and I finally pulled the trigger.
The Injustice games are set in the DC multiverse and in this particular universe Superman changed from Earth’s greatest hero to its iron-fisted dictator. Following a great personal tragedy and the destruction of Metropolis, Superman decided he was done playing nice and he set up a worldwide regime that would brutally enforce peace on the planet. Many of the other heroes of the Justice League, along with a number of villains, joined Superman’s regime, but Batman led an insurgency that defeated Superman in the first Injustice game. Injustice 2 picks up in the aftermath of Batman’s victory as the power vacuum from the defeat of Superman’s regime brings new threats to Earth. Once again developer NetherRealm Studios has set the bar for storytelling within a fighting game and with Injustice 2 they have again delivered a legitimately good comic book story that is arguably better than many of the comic book movies that have come out over the past decade. Granted, if you’ve not played the first Injustice game there are a few plot points that you might be a little confused about, but Batman’s monologue at the start of Injustice 2 provides enough context that new players should have a decent grasp of what’s going on in this universe. As a side note I also have to give props to NetherRealm’s writing team for the pre-fight and clash banter that they came up with for all the characters in Injustice 2. There’s a ton of unique interactions between characters for players to discover and some of them are incredibly hilarious or savage.
Of course, what matters most in a fighting game is not the story but the fighting mechanics, and Injustice 2 has iterated on its predecessor to craft a superb 2D fighter. If you’ve played the first Injustice or either of the recent Mortal Kombat games you’ll be right at home playing Injustice 2, and if you’re new to the series it won’t take long for you to master the basics. Button inputs for a lot of the special abilities and combos are fairly simple and using your meter to increase the damage of certain attacks or to activate your character’s super move is easy. Underneath that initial layer of simplicity, however, is a surprisingly level of depth and for those that want to go deep into the game there is a training mode to teach you advanced tactics and there are tutorials for every character. For the sake of full disclosure let me say that I’m very much a casual when it comes to fighting games, so I can’t give you a deep dive into the combat intricacies of Injustice 2, but even a novice like me can recognize that this game was crafted by a development team that knows fighting games inside and out.
NetherRealm Studio’s talent is shown further in how well Injustice 2 runs. On both a standard PlayStation 4 and a PlayStation 4 Pro the fighting was very smooth and I never experienced any major bugs or crashes while playing offline. The only times where I noticed any issues with the game were during a few story cutscenes where the frames per second dropped a little or the lip syncing was slightly off, though my guess is that these were merely the result of the game loading the next fight in the background while the cutscene played. Another thing that detracted from the experience, and this is merely a strange design choice rather than an outright flaw, is that when you deal a winning blow and knock an opponent to the ground they’ll get up only to immediately transition to their kneeling defeated pose. This was also the case in the first Injustice game and it really shouldn’t happen. If the final blow knocks an opponent on their back or face they should stay down or roll over into the defeat pose rather than awkwardly stand back up.
Jumping into online multiplayer, I didn’t have any issues connecting to the Injustice 2 servers and I found there were still a decent number of players brawling it out with each other. Fights load just as quickly online as offline and so long as I wasn’t facing an opponent with a bad connection I experienced almost no lag during any of my fights. Being the rookie that I am, I got my teeth kicked in for most of the matches that I played and I’d caution any other persons getting started with Injustice 2 that most of the players online these days appear to be skilled veterans. Thankfully Injustice 2’s online multiplayer comes with a feature where the game calculates what it thinks are your statistical odds of winning, based on the previous performance of you and your potential opponent, so you have an insight before accepting a match on whether the other player is close to your level of skill or not.
To go fisticuffs with your opponents you’ll have a wide cast of DC heroes and villains to choose from, each with moves and abilities that are true to their source material. All the big names you’d expect like Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman are present, as well as many other major and minor characters. To further expand the base roster there are also a number of DLC characters, some of which are from outside of DC Comics, as well as several Premier Skins that change certain characters into other ones. For example, Green Lantern’s Premier Skin changes him from Hal Jordan into John Stewart while Superman’s Premier Skin turns him into Bizarro. These Premier Skins have the same move sets as the characters they replaced but have different voice actors and dialogue. Overall I’m very pleased with the Injustice 2’s roster but I would have liked one or two of the DLC characters from the first game return as playable characters in the sequel. I also find it odd that the Nightwing version of Damian Wayne is not unlockable, seeing as how it clearly exists in the game.
A big changeup with the characters of Injustice 2 is the addition of gear that you can equip them with. In addition to changing the look of a character, gear can boost stats and grant passive abilities. These gear buffs only apply in certain game modes and for those concerned about them making online PvP fights unbalanced there are specific modes in online multiplayer where all gear bonuses are turned off. Personally I’m ok with Injustice 2’s gear system as it adds a new layer of customization but I imagine some people aren’t a fan of it. You acquire gear via Mother Boxes that are either given as a reward for playing the game or can be purchased with in-game currency. The gear your gain with each Mother Box seems to be randomized, so it doesn’t appear to be possible to only unlock gear for your favorite character(s).
Whether you use the gear system or not, when playing the game you’ll have to admit that the team at NetherRealm have really outdone themselves in terms of visuals. Injustice 2 has great character models and a few characters such as Harley Quinn and Supergirl have surprisingly good facial animations. As a side note for those curious, yes, Wonder Woman’s face has been fixed from the first Injustice game. Any time the game’s camera zooms in for a clash or a super move you’re in for a visual treat. I particularly appreciated all the small touches in the game such as characters getting dirtied as the fight progressed, though I would have liked it if Injustice 2 did what some of the previous Mortal Kombat games did and had character outfits become visibly damaged as they took blows from their opponents. While Injustice 2 obviously doesn’t look as good as graphical powerhouses like God of War it certainly is the best looking fighting game I’ve played to date.
Along with the story campaign and multiplayer, Injustice 2 also has a few other game modes to keep you coming back for more. The main one is the Multiverse, in which you can find challenges that are updated daily. Hidden off to the side in the Multiverse under the name “Battle Simulator” you can also find something akin to a traditional Arcade Mode where you fight several opponents in a row and get a brief character cutscene as a reward. I’m really not sure why NetherRealm chose to make this Arcade Mode hard to find and I have to dock some points for this oversight. Possibly the most unusual addition to Injustice 2’s extra modes, however, is the AI Battle Simulator. In this mode you select three of your characters to “defend” and then you can select three characters to challenge other player’s defenders in a simulated match. I honestly have no idea what decides whether you win or lose each match—it seems to be completely random—but on the plus side you can set the fights to run a 4x speed so they’ll be over real fast.
At the end here I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up Injustice 2’s microtransactions. If you so choose, you can use microtransactions to purchase things like individual DLC characters and in-game currency. From my time playing the game and the bit of reading I’ve done online I’ve come to the conclusion that Injustice 2’s microtransactions do not allow players to “pay to win” and consequently I have no problem with them being in the game.
Injustice 2 has a few scattered flaws, but its strengths are so numerous that it’s not hard to overlook most of them. A good story, solid fighting mechanics, a reliable game engine, great visuals, and some interesting additions to the Injustice formula all come together to form an impressive fighting game. I’m going to score Injustice 2 at a 9.0 out of 10. It’s just about everything you could hope for in a sequel and a testament to fighting chops of NetherRealm Studios.